Livestreaming a Conversation: Animating Democracy Session Three

Art2Action and Animating Democracy present Artistic Imagination as a Force for Change, the third event in the series Animating Democracy: REFLECTING FORWARD, livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer-produced HowlRound TV network at on Friday 18 November 2022 at 1 p.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC -7) / 3 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC -5) / 4 p.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4).

For more than two decades, Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, has created spaces for critical exchange and catalytic learning in the field. In supporting projects on the ground, so many issues and questions were raised and addressed by artists, cultural organizations, and their community partners. Many of these issues and questions persist, but in a changed and more charged context. In three fall events, the Animating Democracy: Reflecting Forward series considers the practice and progress of community-based and socially/civically-engaged art and culture over recent decades and its promise now and into the future. Each session brings together trailblazing artists and cultural leaders from Animating Democracy’s founding years with a new generation of leading-edge practitioners and thought leaders from the arts and other sectors. Through the lens of their work, featured speakers and artists will help articulate critical questions of the day, and for the future of arts and culture work, as a spark, invitation, and space for social and civic change.

Watch the livestream on this page, or register here to join the Zoom room, receive reminders, and request a free copy of the groundbreaking book Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy.

Session Three: Artistic Imagination as a Force for Change
In October 2003, Detroit-based activist, cultural worker, and then-octogenarian Grace Lee Boggs energized and inspired a national gathering of artists, arts organization and community leaders, and activists with her speech at Animating Democracy’s National Exchange on Art & Civic Dialogue. Enumerating conditions perpetuating inequities and injustices in America, she implored, “Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood?” In Boggs’ subsequent essay, “These are the times that grow our souls,” (commissioned by Animating Democracy), she stressed the need for tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation to effect social justice and change. She advocated a shift from politics as usual and protest alone to positive and holistic change making that also “grows our souls.”

This session, honoring the vibrant legacy of the late Grace Lee Boggs, explores artists’ imaginative power to grow the personal and collective soul, featuring cultural activists adrienne maree brown and Sage Crump, both with deep roots in Detroit, and Urban Bush Women’s founder Jawole Zollar. Urban Bush Women was among Animating Democracy’s first grantees. Their project, Hair Stories, used a method of cultural sharing that alternates between dance performance and dialogue to examine the politics of hair within the African American community and as a path to deeper dialogue about issues of race, class, and social justice. These three powerful thought leaders delve into the relationship between the artistic imagination and civic/social/political action, and how artistic strategies and emergent strategies can bolster movements and make progress toward change.

More About the Artists
adrienne maree brown grows healing ideas in public through her multi-genre writing, her music and her podcasts. Informed by twenty-five years of movement facilitation, somatics, Octavia E Butler scholarship, and her work as a doula, adrienne has nurtured Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism, Radical Imagination, and Transformative Justice as ideas and practices for transformation. She is the founder of the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute where she is now the writer-in-residence. adrienne is author/editor of seven published texts and many other writings including: Grievers (the first novella in a trilogy on the Black Dawn imprint), Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation, She is the cohost of the How to Survive the End of the World, Octavia’s Parables, and Emergent Strategy podcasts.

Sage Crump is a culture strategist, artist, and facilitator who expands and deepens the relationship between the cultural sector and social justice organizing. Sage is a member of Complex Movements, a Detroit-based artist collective whose interdisciplinary work supports local and translocal visionary organizing. She is principal and co-founder with artist muthi reed of The Kinfolks Effect (TKE) Studio. TKE studios is an incubation space for multimedia interdisciplinary artwork that examines the movement of Blackness through time and space. She served as the Program Specialist for Leveraging A Network for Equity (LANE) and is Director of Racial Justice and Movement Building at National Performance Network (NPN), and holds the position of Architect at the Emergent Strategies Ideation Institute. She is a member of the Guild of Future Architects and a board member with the Center for Cultural Innovation, Alternate ROOTS, and Mark-n-Sparks. Sage’s work incorporates complex sciences, emergent strategy, and creative practice to imagine the world we want to live in and build strategies and practices that will get us there.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar earned her BA in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and MFA in dance from Florida State University. In 1984, Jawole founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. She serves as director of UBW’s Summer Leadership Institute, and is the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University. Jawole has received fellowships from United States Artists (2008), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2009), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2021). She received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and honorary degrees from Columbia College, Chicago, Tufts University, Rutgers University, and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Jawole received the Dance Magazine Award (2015), the Dance/USA Honor Award (2016), and the Bessie Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award (2017). In 2020, The Ford Foundation awarded Urban Bush Women as one of America’s Cultural Treasures. In 2021, Jawole received the DanceTeacher Award of Distinction, and the 2022 APAP Honors Award of Merit and the Dorothy and Lilian Gish Prize.

Click here for more details on the Reflecting Forward series!